12 Day Trips from Madrid That Are Worth It

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Madrid is Spain’s capital city and it is located right in the middle of the country. That means that once you are finished exploring the historic streets and cultural intricacies of the city, you can move on to the best day trips from Madrid.

With a high-speed network of trains and excellent road connections, you can easily be on the east coast within two hours, while famous cities such as Zaragoza or Salamanca are just a short journey away too.

Even closer are many ancient Spanish towns where you can peruse Roman ruins and royal palaces at your leisure, with destinations such as Segovia and Toledo being quite literally on the doorstep of Madrid.

The Spanish capital is an excellent location to base yourself when visiting Spain so to inspire you on your adventures beyond the city, here are our favorite day trips from Madrid.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Spain (Travel Guide)

12 Day trips from Madrid That Are Worth It

1. Segovia

Segovia, Spain skyline

Located just an hour away from the center of Madrid, Segovia is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed city that’s just begging to be explored. Making it one of the best day trips from Madrid

This ancient city dates back to Celtic times but is perhaps most famous for the Roman era structures which are still standing even today.

In Segovia, you can find the iconic Roman Aqueduct, one of the finest examples of Latin engineering that can be found anywhere in Europe.

This mighty aqueduct cuts through the city center, where you can also find some spectacular examples of medieval architecture too, including the grand Segovia Cathedral.

Ensure you make time to walk through the old streets of the city center and make the journey to the Alcazar of Segovia, a dramatic Moorish palace that overlooks the river from its vantage point atop a hill.

Our top recommended tours:

2. Avila

Avila, Spain - Best Day trips from Madrid

Also found just over an hour away from Madrid is the equally historic city of Avila.

With roots that can be traced back to pre-Roman times and a long and diverse history of Moorish and Spanish conquests, it’s the medieval city walls that really draw in the tourists.

Built from the 11th century onward these are some of the best-preserved fortifications in Spain. The high walls and countless towers encircle much of the old center and can be walked upon for a large portion of their length.

At night, the entirety of the circular wall is completely lit up by a bright light display which creates an incredible sight in the darkness.

Our top recommended tours:

3. Toledo

Toledo, Spain

Toledo is one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s found just an hour to the south of Madrid, quite literally on the doorstep of the capital.

Perched on the beautiful banks of the Tagus River, the city is full of historic Roman ruins and medieval remnants.

The city center can be bustling and packed with tourists, especially on the weekends, so it’s best to try and arrive early to avoid the many tour groups that pass through.

Take your time to stroll through the old cobbled streets and to get out to the lesser-known parts of Toledo, where things are more peaceful anyway.

Visit the elegant Cathedral, the towering Alcazar and follow the Royal history of the city, because Toledo was once the Royal city of Spain, where monarchs held their court in centuries past.

Our top recommended tours:

4. Sierra de Guadarrama National Park

Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, Spain

After several day trips from Madrid to historic cities, museums and castles you may be in need of a change. Head out into the nearby Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, a wild mountain range that separates Madrid from Segovia.

The highest peaks here can reach over 2000 meters and it’s not uncommon to see snow at this high altitude throughout much of the year. It can be a great place to escape to in summer. 

It has much colder weather than the cities below, particularly as you head higher into the mountains. Explore on foot, tackling hiking trails or mountain biking routes all the while enjoying the great outdoor scenery and rugged landscapes.

Our top recommended tours:

5. Ribero del Duero

wine and cheese

Spain produces some of the most highly regarded wines in Europe and the regions around Madrid are where some of these well-regarded bottles originate from.

Found in the countryside outside the city, Ribero del Duero is one of the most prestigious regions in Spain. This beautiful area north of Madrid is dotted with valleys, charming Spanish towns and of course wineries.

Take a day tour from the city that explores the landscapes and that takes you into the wineries themselves, for a tasting experience that really takes you to the very heart of this Spanish wine country.

Our top recommended tours:

6. Salamanca

Salamanca Spain

Just a two-hour drive or train ride to the west of Madrid is Spain’s ‘Golden City’, the ancient city of Salamanca. This makes the city one of the easy day trips from Madrid

With a long and illustrious history, the old city center of Salamanca is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its impressive medieval architecture and even more impressive heritage.

Salamanca is also home to one of Europe’s oldest Universities and the city has long been revered as an important place of learning.

This trend continues today, and visitors will find that the city’s main University is one of the busiest and most well regarded in all of Spain.

You can explore the elegant Salamanca University buildings in person, exploring the many arches and old lecture halls across the city.

Take the time to visit the cathedrals too, as well as the important royal palaces and the local museums to learn more about Salamanca’s unique past.

Our top recommended tours:

7. Guadalajara

Farms and backlit view of Sigüenza Castle in Guadalajara, Spain

Guadalajara isn’t perhaps as well known as many of the other more famous cities that tourists will visit from Madrid. That makes this the perfect day trip though for those looking for a quiet, and perhaps less chaotic excursion.

This unassuming town to the northeast of Madrid has an equally intriguing history as more popular destinations such as Segovia or Toledo, with its origins dating back to pre-Roman times.

You can visit the impressive remains of a 9th century Alcazar, built by Moorish conquerors who also laid the modern foundations of much of Guadalajara.

There are many interesting palaces, museums, and cathedrals to enjoy too, but perhaps the biggest attraction is to simply stroll through the quiet yet charming streets to experience a small glimpse of local life in Guadalajara.

8. Cuenca

Historic Walled Town of Cuenca - Spain. This view shows the Hanging Houses perched on the cliffside.

To the east of Madrid is Cuenca, a dramatically located city that should most definitely be a must-visit on any traveler’s Spanish itinerary.

Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of the incredibly well preserved old town and medieval fortifications to be found here. It is one of the best day trips from Madrid to be had.

The city was founded by the Moors, and much of their legacy is still apparent across Cuenca.

Visitors might be enthralled by the history here, but even those who care little for Moorish palaces or medieval castles will be left in awe of the spectacular sight of Cuenca.

Found on top of a high cliff in the mountains, this natural defensive position overlooks a scenically astounding gorge that is unlike anywhere else in the region.

9. Zaragoza

Cathedral and Ebro river in Zaragoza. Aragon, Spain

Zaragoza may be a long-distance away geographically, but by high-speed trains, you can now travel from Madrid in less than two hours. Zaragoza is the capital of the Aragon region of Spain and it makes for an excellent day trip away from Madrid.

With a beautiful skyline that stretches along the river, this a lovely place to enjoy the unique cuisine, the charming cafes and the intriguing museums of what is very much an underrated Spanish city.  

Our top recommended tours:

10. Valencia

View of the sea from a height of Pope Luna's Castle. Valencia, Spain. Peniscola. Castell.

Found on the east coast of Spain, Valencia may also seem quite far away from Madrid, but like Zaragoza, high-speed rail connections will ensure that this is very much a day trip opportunity.

Escape to the beaches of the Spanish coastline to enjoy the sun, the sand, and the sea.

But make sure you also explore the city center, where quirky, modern architecture and charming Spanish restaurants have led to Valencia becoming a popular stop on the tourist trail.

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11. San Lorenzo de El Escorial

San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

Found a little closer to Madrid, San Lorenzo de El Escorial makes for a shorter day trip from the city. This is the home of one of the largest royal palaces in Europe, the palace of El Escorial.

This is the real reason to visit the town, as this enormous architectural feat will astound you when you first lay eyes on it.

It’s a relic of a grander era, as King Philip II of Spain ordered its construction at the height of the Spanish Empire when gold and riches were flooding into his royal purse from all across the world.

The palace became his primary residence in the 16th century and successive members of the royal family extended it and lavished even more money upon its design.

Many of the Spanish Kings and Queens of the following centuries lived here and were then buried here, making this an incredibly important part of Spanish history.

Our top recommended tours:

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Spain (Travel Guide)

12. Aranjuez

Aranjuez, Spain -Best Day trips from Madrid

Those with an interest in Spanish royalty or Spanish history, in general, will also love a day trip south of Madrid to the small town of Aranjuez.

Here you can find another important Spanish palace, the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, which was also built by the riches of King Philip II.

It is a grand and elegant building and a lovely day from Madrid.

Our top recommended tours:

Recommended Multi-Day Spain Itineraries

The yellow scallop shell signing the way to santiago de compostela on the st james pilgrimage route
  • Walk The Camino De Santiago– If you’re looking to take on your own pilgrimage — along a route filled with beautiful countryside and rustic villages of Northern Spain — start here, at the Camino de Santiago. On this eight-day trip, complete the last 100 km of the pilgrimage route to Santiago and receive a “compostela” at the finish to prove your accomplishment. Refuel with tasty Spanish food and take the time to stop and smell the flowers — it’s active but at a slower, more picturesque pace.
  • Classic Spain– In Spain, a country that’s filled with flavor, artistry, and passion, there’s no such thing as going halfway. Start in the south, where the Andalucian capital of Seville will introduce you to the most firey of dances — the flamenco. Head north and get a taste of Spain’s Basque and Catalan provinces: vibrant Barcelona, unhurried San Sebastián, Logroño’s famous cuisine, cosmopolitan Madrid, and the mighty Pyrenees. Each region of Spain has its own distinct character, style, and language to offer. Get it all here.
  • Discover Moorish Spain– Discover the history and romance of Andalucia on this eight-day trip to five amazing cities, with plenty of free time to discover them. Explore Madrid’s famous museums, walk the cobblestoned streets of El Greco’s Toledo with a local historian, take a flamenco lesson in Granada, and embrace the region’s Moorish spirit in Granada and Córdoba. Some 1,300 years in the making, the fascinating culture of Moorish Spain will be sure to leave you wanting more.
  • Best of Northern Spain– Spain has been described as less of a country than a collection of small nations all working together. Each region has its own distinct character, style, even language. This quick eight-day trip introduces you to Spain’s Basque and Catalan provinces the best way: through food, art, culture, and first-person contact. Vibrant Barcelona, unhurried San Sebastián, Bilbao’s fabulous architecture, Logroño’s famous cuisine, cosmopolitan Madrid, and the mighty Pyrenees, all in just over a week? Yeah, we did that. Come find out how.

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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